After a year of intense self-isolation, many people owe much of their remaining sanity to music. From personal playlists to livestream performances, music quickly became the most essential component in the everyday lives of millions stuck at home. From a global perspective, COVID-19 caused numerous disruptions within the music industry as abrupt cancellations of concerts, festivals and night club events forced many artists and DJs to find alternative routes to maintain their livelihoods. DJs from popular cities such as NYC saw a drastic decrease in public performances and, like many other DJs, turned to social media for monetary opportunities.
Standing at the crossroads of music, technology, and performance, DJs played a critical role in maintaining musical stimulation as thousands of people joined the livestreams of DJs seeking to remain artistically visible in the midst of a pandemic. Kaytranada and Moodymann were among many of the established DJs that focused on dropping quarantine sets. Both later transitioned into participating in virtual gigs as Kaytranada headlined House of Vans’ debut digital experience and Moodymann joined forces with Bottega Veneta to score the salon 03 fashion show.
In a profession where being in sync with the crowd greatly determines one’s success, achieving this through social media was no easy feat. “I DJed some virtual things during the pandemic and it was really difficult because I couldn’t feed off the energy of the crowd,” said Kim Hu, also known by her stage name DJ Hu Dat. Having opened for an impressive number of artists including Doja Cat, Chief Keef, and Rico Nasty, Hu is one of the most sought-after DJs in the industry and has successfully transitioned into managing uprising stars like Ilyhook and Bloody Clip.
As doors begin to reopen in New York’s nightlife, DJs once again face the trials of navigating through NYC’s club scene. The shift of norms in dance culture and termination of several popular clubbing venues has caused an air of uncertainty around how the club scene will move forward in a post pandemic society. Despite this, many DJs seem excited to resume work as the consequences of COVID-19 have been both financially and socially taxing for the DJ community.
“I feel like there’s definitely a new excitement and appreciation for just being out of the house that didn’t exist pre-Covid…it’s a whole sensory experience that people were deprived of for such a long time, so now that they have access to it, I feel like things are just different,” said Dylan Ali, a Black-Muslim DJ based in New York.
A frequent staple of New York City’s music scene, Dylan has DJed everywhere from corporate branded events to high fashion after parties. “There’s so many different subcultures. It’s like a huge ethnic melting pot and there’s many intersections within that, so I feel like…I have so many different types of audiences and I always have the opportunity to try something new,” said Ali. Like many other women and queer DJs of color, she is no stranger to the ups-and-downs of the music scene and is seeking to reclaim the time shes lost in the house by refocusing on her craft and upcoming projects.
While the pandemic has greatly impacted the nightlife scene, the unprecedented explosion of interest in DJing has quickly led to the culture going from underground to mainstream almost overnight. A few DJs have begun to speak on the shift, noting that the lack of care or consideration that managers and venue owners have applied into hiring DJs has led to a pattern of inauthenticity within the community. “DJs that aren’t DJs are truly the most annoying thing in the world. They have no love for it at all, just utilizing DJing to make a bigger name for themselves, a photo moment, or just to be seen. They hog all the cool, fun spaces and really make it hard for you to be in those new spaces,” said DJ Zillion. An Atlanta native, Zillion’s genuine talent of genre-blending and eccentric crowd control has allowed him to progressively establish his reputation within NYC’s DJ community.
Still, in a city notorious for its cutthroat critics and competitive climate, it’s surprising that a deceptive layer of DJs thriving off of social status as opposed to real talent have successfully latched onto the community. Much of what makes New York’s DJ culture so distinct from its counterparts is its emphasis on creatives that are diverse and authentic in both their identities and mixing styles; a theme that many DJs can attest to including newbie DJ Phunky Spit who noted, “I feel like in New York it’s definitely way more competitive than it was in Miami especially because the scene is way bigger…there’s also so many queer DJs here its honestly amazing. I feel like there’s way more support here from the community as opposed to Miami.” Spit herself has only recently begun her journey as a DJ in New York after relocating to the Big Apple earlier this year.
As the momentum of NYC’s nightlife gradually progresses, the longevity of the club scene largely depends on the talented DJs within the community. With an unpredictable amount of factors consistently threatening to topple the nightlife industry, other talented rising DJs such as Princess Peggie, Mondai, Goth Jafar, Dilemmah and many more.
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createdAt:Fri, 22 Oct 2021 17:11:20 +0000
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